If asked where some of the best street photography can be had, I would be quick to answer: Paris, New York City, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan. If you are coming to Asia then you are mostly-likely going to land in places like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Bangkok. These are among some of my favorite places to shoot, but there is another place that should be mention, Taipei, Taiwan.
While living in Taiwan most travelers that I have run into from overseas are only here as a stop-over on their way to their final destination. It seems very rare that tourist come to Taipei as their final destination. It is somewhat understandable as Taipei doesn’t have the infrastructure to support tourism quite like Hong Kong. But, it is for this very reason that as a photographer you
want need to come and shoot the streets of Taipei, before things change too much.
There could be pages and pages written about getting around here as a tourist, but I’m going to keep it kind of short and photographically centered. About the language: I moved here in 2006 with zero Mandarin and since then have learned very little. Even so, it is easy to get around anywhere I need to go thanks to signs written in English and a fantastic, efficient public transportation system. Taxis are plentiful and cheap, but you would be well advised to do a tiny bit of research first and at least have the addresses of the places you’d like to visit written in Chinese or do what so many expats around here do, take a screenshot of your destination’s address in Chinese off of their website.
Why photograph the streets of Taipei? The best case I can make is that it is a modern, hyper-active city of 5,000,000+ people with a rich culture full of tradition spilling onto the streets. One of the first things you will notice about Taipei is the sheer density of people. Every nook and cranny is filled with a some kind of store or shop; there’s very little dead space. There are a few wide boulevards to usher people and traffic around, but the best parts of the city are hidden in the narrow alleys and streets. Walk off of any main road and you will come across dozens of food vendors, small restaurants, specialty shops and most likely a temple. Temples are sprinkled all of the city. Some of them are no bigger than the size of refrigerator and some of them take up an entire city block. There are a number of large, well known shrines and temples, but some of the most photogenic are the small neighborhood ones that seem to be on just about every corner.
Taipei is off-the-map as far as vacation destinations go and that is exactly what makes this city a gem in so many ways.
Finally, if you plan on coming through Taipei as a stop over on your way somewhere else or if Taipei is your final destination, please feel free to contact me, I would be more than happy to show you some of the sites the city has to offer. -Steve